I’ve had the privilege of working with and training alongside countless coaches, athletes and everyday folk — they all have one thing in common, everyone performs a different warm-up.
‘The Perfect Warm-up’ leads to you performing your best and it reduces your changes of injury.
Staying healthy allows you to train more and training is awesome.
So the more you can train the more awesome you become…it’s science.
But what is ‘The Perfect Warm-up’? How much is too much? What is too little? What is just right?
‘The Perfect Warm-Up’ Scale
Developed by yours truly (Joey Percia) with my ‘math’ checked over by rocket scientists
This scale has taken years and years of blood, sweat and tears to develop. I have spent all of my hard earned money to hire countless rocket scientists check all of my ‘math’ and it is absolutely ground breaking. I can’t believe I am about to share this — prepare to have your mind blown…
So how much time do you need to spend warming up?
Ask this question…
How much time do you need to get yourself in the proper positions so you can safely perform the tasks intended for your session for the day?
Let’s take a look at a training session that will involve some heavy-ass squatting:
Lifter A– has no problem dropping into a full squat under control while keeping a neutral spine, feet flat, knees tracking properly, no aches, pain, discomfort or feelings of tightness or restriction.
Lifter B– has limited mobility in the hips and ankles causing him to lean heavily forward in the bottom of the squat with the heels coming off of the floor, knees cave in during the descent and gets folded over like an accordion.
Obviously for Lifter B this is a very unsafe position to be in when squatting.
This lifter has to spend more time in certain phases of the warm-up to allow for proper squatting technique to stay safe and get strong as Hercules.
How much time you spend in each of these phases is highly individualized. Not everyone will need to spend the same amount of time doing the same task nor should they.
This is the beauty of having a great coach design a program specifically for you — yes, this includes the warm-up. This is why I develop specific warm-ups for all of my coaching clients.
There are two main phases of a ‘The Perfect Warm-up’:
The General Warm-Up
A general warm-up should include 3 different ‘phases’:
‘Release’ – targeting soft tissue work to attack problem areas
‘Open’ – increase range of motion in positions similar to the movement you will be performing
‘Anchor’ – create stability and strength in your new range of motion
Goals of the General Warm-up
Increase the body’s temperature
This can be done by a variety of different ways such as jumping rope, jogging, mobility drills, bodyweight movements, or wearing extra layers of clothes.
By increasing the muscle temperature we allow the muscles to become more flexible and extensible which reduces the risk of injury.
I don’t think I need to tell you that is a good thing…but yes, this is a good thing.
Improve joint alignment and mobility
There is a certain position our joints need to be in to allow for our body to perform the best.
It is important to address tight and overactive muscles during the warm-up so help with this.
Mobility drills, very selective self-myofascial release (SMR) techniques can be used before a workout to reset the body.
After that is done activation drills are performed to get the correct muscles firing and concrete our new found range of motion.
Research on self myofascial release is fairly new.
In short the research says SMR may reduce stiffness, improve muscular and vascular function and increase joint range of motion without interfering with rate of force development and athletic performance.
Again, this is a good things for not only performance but also to feel better when moving.
Some popular SMR tools include: softball, lacrosse ball, peanut ball (two lacrosse balls taped together), foam roller, medicine balls, and compression wraps/bands.
Increase nervous system and body awareness
Specific drills should be used at the end of the warm-up to excite/wake up the nervous system. These are important to get the body ready for activity.
This is where dynamic movements such as low intensive plyometrics are used.
Keep the drills closely related to the activity that is going to be performed.
For example: If your main movement for the day is going to be a bench press, plyometric pushups or medicine balls throw would be a good option. If the main movement is a squat variation, perform box jumps or bodyweight jump squats.
Considerations for your General Warm-up
Nagging injuries and past surgeries are pain in the ass problems us semi-athletic folk have to deal with on a pretty regular basis.
Show some tender loving care (TLC) in these areas with prehab/rehab movements and make it safer to train.
Obviously this is a pretty smart idea if you want to stay healthy and pain free.
Understanding basic anatomy and human movement is an important part of developing an optimal warm-up.
Being able to pin-point weaknesses and imbalances is important to avoid injury.
For example: a football player who has super tight hips which are restricting him from running at his full potential would be better suited with more extensive warm-up including soft tissue work and mobility drills. Compared to a hypermobile cheerleader with excessive anterior pelvic tilt and poor core control, would be better off focusing on stability and activation drills to address her weakness.
One of these athletes needs to address mobility while the other needs to address stability. This is where knowing what to use and when becomes very important. This is why I do a detailed assessment with my coaching clients.
The Specific Warm-Up
The specific warm-wp should include:
The specific task that will be performed…
I know it’s rough, I don’t know how people come up with these names.
Goals of the specific warm-up
Prepare for the specific task
The goal of a specific warm-up is to prime the body for the exact movement that is going to be performed.
For example: if the first main movement of the session is a 3-RM deadlift, the trainee will perform progressively heavier weights until a 3-RM is achieved.
The specific warm-up is the perfect opportunity to work on technique.
It is important to practice your technique on every rep of every set, even when warming up with just the bar. This way when things start getting heavy everything stays the same.
If you have poor habits during warm-ups expect them to show their ugly little faces when things get heavy.
The more you practice perfect technique the more it will feel like second nature when the weights get heavier.
A common mistake I see is people cruise through the warm-up sets with sloppy technique because the weight is not heavy to them.
These same people have different technique on every rep and their form breaks down extremely fast. Take pride in your warm-up sets.
Considerations for your Specific Warm-Up
How good are you at the movement
An often overlooked piece of the puzzle.
Every rep of every set should be performed with the best form possible.
Will form break down sometimes? Of course.
It doesn’t matter if you squat 750lbs, when you unrack 135lbs it should be the same way and the lift should be executed the same (just without your head looking like it is going to explode).
How strong are you?
Obviously strength levels play a huge part in a specific warm-up for a lift.
A much stronger lifter will have move volume and spend longer getting up to their “working sets” than a less advanced lifter.
You should always be performing some sort of progressive overload to get stronger.
Check out this article if you want want to learn 12 different variables to change in your training to make sure you are consistently getting stronger.
I will let you in on a very simple trick that does wonders for increasing strength and work capacity over time:
Add more warm-up sets
For example: instead of doing only one set with 95 lbs, do 2-3. The idea is accumulate more volume without fatiguing yourself and taking away from the heavier work sets for the session.
Designing Your Optimal Warm-Up
Start on the ground
Save yourself the headache of standing up and down a bunch of times.
Get all of the ground-based work done first, then progress to kneeling/half kneeling, to standing and walking, jumping, running etc.
This will not only help keep you sane but keeps things running smooth especially if you are in a busy facility.
Weaponize your body don’t destroy it
Remember a warm-up is just that…a warm-up.
You should be preparing your body to dominate the workout, not burning yourself out before you even get to your workout.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Ultimately your warmup involves what makes you feel best — a coach looking in from the outside will not know exactly how you feel so it is important to let them know.
We all have weaknesses and imbalances to work on and a warm-up is a great time to address them.
Get out of your comfort zone and experience some new warm-up movements.
Sample General Warm-Up for Lower-Body session
I developed this warm-up for a lower-body squat session. Most of these movements are probably new to you but that is what makes it fun.
Give this a try:
- Spend about 15-20 seconds OR 10 passes each section.
- Use a slow and controlled tempo, keep your breathing as normal as possible.
|Foam Roller/LAX Ball/Softball||Dynamic Warm-Up|
|Hip Flexors||Half Butterfly w/ lat stretch x 8 breaths per side|
|IT Band/Tensor Fasciae Latae||Rollover into v-sit x 8|
|Hamstrings||Deadbugs x 8 / side|
|Thoracic Extension||Single leg glute bridge x8 / side|
|Arches of feet||Walkout w/ pushup x 8 / side|
|Glutes||Alternating shin squat x 5 /side|
|Back of shoulder||Prisoner Jump Squats x10|
Check out THIS video for a demonstration of these movements…
Wrap it up
I hope you were able to see the importance of a properly designed warm-up and understand that warm-ups can be highly specialized.
Maybe you found some things where you have been spending too much time and other places where you may need to focus a bit more.
Give this sample warm-up a try exactly how it is prescribed and let me know how you feel!
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